BLOOMINGTON – What a way to go.
Coaching in what likely is her last state final competitive cheerleading event, the Redskins sent coach Kristin Sanders off in style Saturday.
Riding a wave of momentum that had the Redskins competing at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington for an unprecedented third straight day, Morris fought through the fatigue and was rewarded with a second-place finish at the IHSA event in the medium division.
“It’s been nine years in the making since I’ve been here and I couldn’t be happier right now,” Sanders said. “We’ve had a great season and I’m happy to leave on a note like this.”
While Sanders will be stepping aside for family reasons, she certainly is leaving behind another group who seemingly became a family.
“This is amazing. Our goal all year was to finish in the top 10. Once we made it into the top 10, we made a new goal for [Saturday] and we went out wanting to put our best performance out on that floor,” Morris captain Abby Dergo said. “That’s what we did. Taking home this trophy is just awesome. It makes it even better.”
“I think it’s everything we’ve worked for. All of the practices and all of the injuries and it’s all paid off. When teams make it into the top 10, that’s an awesome accomplishment. All the girls who were here today were amazing,” Morris captain Morgan Hussey said. “To make it for the second time ever in history and to be the first team to ever podium is a real honor. Working along side these girls has been the best experience of my life. I love all of the coaches and I appreciate everything that everyone has done this year. Just knowing that what we did paid off and we got rewarded. It’s an awesome moment.”
Morris had advanced out of the IHSA state preliminaries only once leading up to this season. That came in 2009 when the Redskins finished 10th with a team score of 79.72.
“We’ve never gone this far in the history of Morris High School,” Morris captain Brittany Kenney said. “This is awesome experience to realize how far that we’ve come.”
“We’re just really proud to represent our school,” Morris captain Jacqueline Murphy said. “This is the second team to actually make it to day two and to podium and place is amazing.”
The reason Morris was held over in Bloomington for three days was well documented. Their regional at Mahomet-Seymour was snowed out twice and then scheduled at U.S. Cellular Coliseum one day before the state event. Not to mention injuries earlier in the season.
“I fell on my neck and was out in December at practice. This was my fourth competition back.” Kenney said. “For me, coming where I’ve come from since last year, it is awesome. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”
So just how did the Redskins hold it together the final three days?
“The girls got a little grumpy and tired [Friday night], but once they got food they were much happier,” Sanders said.
Does that mean the team got sick of it?
“We’re not sick of it because we love coming out here, but like I said to the team before we came out here, ‘I know we are so tired and we are sore from going two days in a row,’ – we had never gone two days before [in competition)]– I said, ‘we have to reach down
deep,’ ” Hussey said. “For some of us, it was our last 2:45 seconds to perform the routine.”
Morris ended with a team score of 88.98, which was second behind Lemont’s 90.84.
So, what is the secret of success for all of the teams who come after to learn from?
“Teamwork. It’s all about teamwork,” Sanders said. “Also having the confidence in yourself and the training and in the coaches.”
“It’s not just about talent. It takes skill and hard work,” Kenney said. “A lot of hard work and dedication.”
“We all work really well together. We’ve practiced hard,” Murphy said. “It’s about being dedicated and working hard.”
“We went through this routine tediously every day,” Hussey said. “We did a lot of reps and it all worked out. It all paid off.”